Head Brewer Alex Lawes explains how the latest piece of gadgetry added to the McGargles bag of tricks is utilised in the brewing process, and the manner in which it alters a beer’s flavour profile.
Here at McGargles, we are constantly seeking means of improving our methods of production, while enhancing the flavour of our beers. To do so, it can be prudent to emulate what other brewers have done in the past and apply it accordingly.
In 2009, the Sierra Nevada brewery invented the Hops Torpedo, which was viewed as a cutting-edge innovation within the industry. Interestingly, the initial design was first sketched on a bar napkin. The torpedo has made a process known as dry hopping far more efficient and affective. In essence, dry hopping is where hops are added to fermentation tanks to infuse a beer with their flavours and aroma.
During the fermenting stage we may decide to give the beer a more hoppy flavour which can be achieved by placing bags of hops in the whirlpool or boil. However, during fermentation, many of the flavours can been carried off.
So, rather than applying the old method, which is to manually drop the hops into the fermenter, the torpedo allows to bump the beer onto the hops from a separate ground-level vessel. Furthermore, given the increased size of fermenters, this is no longer fully safe to do.
Other breweries have used a pneumatic cannon for the same purpose but we have found that the hop character that materialises from the torpedo is more discernible.
In practice, the torpedo is a circulation vessel that can be wheeled over to the fermenter, hooked up via pipes and then the beer is gently circulated throughout the hops before being sent back into the fermenter. As a result, there is a very strong resinous hop flavour, which you wouldn’t normally achieve.
We are proud to be the only brewers in Ireland currently using this device, and believe it reflects our desire here at McGargles to always be evolving and challenging our customer’s pallets. We endeavour to get the most from our materials and the torpedo has yielded a 30% increase in our overall hop flavour.
We have significant plans for utilising the torpedo in the near future. As an infusion vessel, it will allow us to infuse our beer with ingredients such as oak, coffee beans and all manner of fruits. Watch this space, because the potential for flavour expansion is limitless.